The United Nations Special Envoy to Libya, Abdoulaye Bathily briefed the UN Security Council on the latest developments in the country. He said that the political process “remains protracted and falls short of the aspirations of the Libyan people who seek to elect their leaders and reinvigorate their political institutions. In short, Libyans are impatient. They question the will and desire of the current interim political actors to hold inclusive and transparent elections in 2023.”
During his speech, Bathily stated that the Parliament adopted the 13th Constitutional Amendment to the 2011 Constitutional Declaration. “This amendment is yet to be endorsed by the High State Council (HCS).”
Despite repeated attempts by the Parliament Speaker and the President of the HCS and their delegations to agree on a constitutional basis for elections, disagreements persist. “The 13th Constitutional amendment is controversial within the Libyan political class and general citizenry,” according to Bathily.
“Moreover, it does not address key contentious issues such as the eligibility criteria for Presidential candidates, it does not stipulate a clear roadmap and timelines to realize inclusive elections in 2023, and adds additional contentious issues such as the regional representation in the Senate,” he added.
Bathily confirmed that Libya’s political class is going through a major legitimacy crisis. “One could say that most institutions lost their legitimacy years ago. Solving this legitimacy crisis should therefore be the priority for all political actors willing to change the status quo. To date, the Parliament and HCS have not been able to agree on a consensual constitutional basis for elections,” he stated.
“Meanwhile, the realization of Presidential and legislative elections requires a broad national consensus, which involves the buy-in and participation of a wider range of stakeholders, including national institutions, political figures, security actors, tribal forces and other stakeholders. Based on article 64 of the 2015 Libyan Political Agreement (LPA), and building on previously reached agreements among Libyan stakeholders, I have therefore decided to launch an initiative aimed at enabling the organization and holding of presidential and legislative elections in 2023. In this regard, I plan to establish a High-level Steering Panel for Libya,” he stated
According to the UN envy, the proposed mechanism will “bring together all relevant Libyan stakeholders, including representatives of political institutions, major political figures, tribal leaders, civil society organisations, security actors, women, and youth representatives. In addition to the facilitation of the adoption of the legal framework and time-bound roadmap to the holding of elections in 2023, the proposed Panel will also provide a platform to advance consensus around related matters, such as election security and the adoption of a Code of Conduct for all candidates.”
He commended the Presidential Council and the African Union for their efforts. “Reconciliation is a long-term process that should be inclusive, victim-centred, rights-based, and grounded on transitional justice principles. I encourage the Presidential Council, with the support of the African Union, to implement necessary steps for an inclusive National Reconciliation Conference in Libya, and I reiterate the UN’s support to Libyan partners and the African Union.”
Bathily explained that the 5+5 Joint Military Commission (JMC) continues to make progress in the implementation of the ceasefire agreement. “I am pleased to report that the ceasefire continues to hold, and there have been no violations recorded since my last briefing. The security situation, however, remains fragile.”
The Envoy confirmed that encouraging steps were also taken to set the conditions for the Disarmament Demobilization and Reintegration process once the political environment is conducive. The JMC agreed to begin holding talks with representatives of armed groups, to discuss ways to secure a conducive environment for elections among other issues.
“UNSMIL, at the request of and jointly with the 5+5 JMC plans to facilitate a dialogue with representatives of armed groups in the coming weeks.”
On the economic track, the management of the country’s resources remains a serious concern for all Libyans. The use of Libya’s resources particularly prioritization of expenditures, a lack of basic services, the absence of accountability, and demands for equitable distribution of resources need to be fully addressed.
He reiterated the importance, and urgency, of establishing a “Libyan-led mechanism that brings together stakeholders from across the country, to agree on spending priorities and ensure that oil and gas revenues are managed in a transparent and equitable manner, in line with Security Council Resolution 2656.” The reunification and reform of the Central Bank are also key to maintaining accountability and promoting the economic welfare of the country.
“To achieve sustainable progress, advancing the economic track must remain an integral part of the political dialogue with Libyan stakeholders and the Libyan people,” he noted.
Regrettably, the already limited civic space in Libya continues to be further restricted, silencing the voices of civil society groups and activists.
“I am alarmed by a wave of arrests of women human rights defenders, accused of offending Libya’s traditions, following the activation of the anti-cybercrime law.”
February also marks more than one year since four civil society actors were arbitrarily arrested and detained under the pretence of protecting ‘Libyan culture and values’, while peacefully exercising their fundamental right to freedom of expression. In late December 2022, the four men were sentenced to three years imprisonment.
Bathily reiterated his calls on Libyan authorities to end their crackdown on civil society, protect and promote civic space, and cease interfering in the work of civil society organisations.
He said that Libyan women and civil society organizations demanded a greater role in the ongoing political and reconciliation processes. “They demand to have their voices heard and full representation in all institutions.”
Bathily stressed that women “must be meaningfully represented in all political and reconciliation processes as well as civil society, cultural components, youth, and vulnerable groups and communities.”
On a more positive note, on 6 February, a draft law on combatting violence against women was officially submitted to the Libyan Parliament. “I acknowledge the tireless efforts of the Libyan experts who developed this draft which is essential to ensure women’s fundamental right to live free from violence.”
“It is our mandate to support Libyans in their aspirations to realize their goals for a stable country led by authorities dedicated to its population’s wellbeing. Inclusive and transparent national elections to be held in 2023 are a key step in that direction,” Bathily said.
He requested for the Council to “express its support to my suggested way forward to fulfil the aspirations of the Libyan people.”